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DOJ: Flight Attendants Were Smuggling Drug Money

Your unbiased daily news brief

Good morning and happy Thursday. No television cameras are allowed inside the courtroom for former President Donald Trump's hush money trial in New York. But there are sketch artists. NPR profiled three women who are documenting the historic event by hand. Have a great day!

In Today’s Brief

  • House: Speaker is safe (for now)

  • North Korea: Propaganda guru dies

  • Wisconsin: New poll in key Senate race

  • Markets: Dow keeps rolling

  • Champions League: Final is set

... and more

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Top Tips

1) Unfriendly skies

Four flight attendants are in a lot of trouble.

  • The news: Federal authorities say the attendants smuggled about $8M in drug money from New York to the Dominican Republic while on the job. The quarter trafficked the bulk cash from 2019-23; two attendants worked for Delta Airlines. All four lived in the New York metropolitan area.

  • The process: Homeland Security alleges the flight attendants moved the cash by utilizing Known Crewmember lanes, going through checkpoints without personal belongings being inspected. The money came from drug dealers, but law enforcement eventually infiltrated the scheme with undercover officers.

  • Big picture: This is not the first time airline employees have recently been caught using their jobs to traffic drugs or illicit cash. An American Airlines mechanic tried to smuggle cocaine onto a New York to Jamaica flight last year while a flight attendant in Dallas tried to move fentanyl from Fort Worth to San Francisco in 2022.

2) Drawing a line

President Joe Biden has issued Israel an ultimatum.

  • What happened: Biden told CNN he will stop supplying the Israelis with offensive weapons if they launch a full-scale invasion in the Gaza city of Rafah. Biden and other world leaders have been urging Israel not to invade for weeks, while the Israelis say it is necessary to defeat Hamas.

  • The context: Over 1M Palestinians have taken refuge in Rafah during the war, which is in its eighth month. The international community fears an invasion will further exacerbate the enclave's humanitarian crisis; the U.S. has said it will not support an offensive without a credible plan to protect civilians.

  • Big picture: The U.S. has delayed weapons shipments while Israel carries out limited operations in Rafah. This is the first time Biden has said he will cut off all support if Israel goes in. It is a politically fraught situation for him; he has been unable to get Israel to back off and now he faces domestic challenges as well.

3) Full refund … sort of

FTX made a big promise, albeit with an asterisk.

  • What happened: The failed cryptocurrency exchange filed a bankruptcy reorganization plan vowing to repay all customers in full, plus interest. Lawyers said customers with $50K or less in assets will get 118% of their portfolio's value; the company said that plan touches 98% of the exchange's customers.

  • The big but: A bitcoin was worth about $18.5K when FTX collapsed. It's now worth about $62K. So most customers caught up in disgraced CEO Sam Bankman-Fried's mess still lose in the end, even if FTX thinks it will have a $5B surplus once it finishes selling off all assets.

  • Big picture: SBF's legal team will likely use this filing as he appeals his fraud conviction and 25-year prison sentence. But it likely won't do him much good, as Judge Lewis Kaplan said whether the money was recovered was not important to him at sentencing.

Quick Tips

U.S. News

  • A vote to oust Speaker of the House Mike Johnson failed decisively in a bipartisan effort. The House voted 359-43 with seven lawmakers voting present to table Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's motion to vacate after weeks of rancor (More)

  • The death of a woman at Ohio State's graduation ceremony is being investigated as an apparent suicide. Witnesses say the woman climbed over the Ohio Stadium wall before falling to her death (More)

  • Americans have fully spent over $2.1T in funds saved during the pandemic, according to a new estimate by the Federal Reserve of San Francisco. But consumer spending has not waned, surprising economists (More)

World News

  • North Korea's propaganda chief has died at 94. Kim Ki Nam served the late Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and current dictator Kim Jong Un; South Korea's media compared him to infamous Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (More)

  • An initial suspect was indicted in the apparent murders of an American and two Australians in Mexico. The men were on a surfing trip and found with gunshot wounds to the heads; the suspect is charged with forced disappearance (More)

  • The mother of a U.S. soldier detained in Russia said he was "lured" by a woman he was dating in South Korea. Melody Jones alleged her son, Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, is accused of stealing about $100 from her (More)

Campaign News

  • Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin has a 12-point lead on likely Republican opponent Eric Hovde, according to a new poll. Baldwin is at 54% in the survey with a double-digit lead among independents in the battleground state (More)

  • Barron Trump will be among Florida's delegates at this year's Republican National Convention. It is the first time former President Trump's youngest child, 18, will participate in a political role; he will graduate from high school next week (More)

  • Former California Rep. Pete McCloskey died at 96. The GOP member served seven terms and mounted a primary challenge against then-President Richard Nixon in 1972; he joined the Democratic Party later in life (More)

Business & Markets

  • Major indexes closed mixed yesterday. The Dow Jones was up for a sixth straight day (Dow +0.44%, Nasdaq -0.18%, S&P 500 -0.01%).

  • Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery will bundle their streaming services in a package similar to traditional cable television. The platform is expected to launch later this year with Disney+, Hulu and Max (More)

  • Tesla is reportedly the subject of a federal criminal probe. The Department of Justice is investigating whether the electric vehicle manufacturer committed securities or wire fraud by making misleading statements about its self-driving technology (More)

Entertainment & Sports

  • Real Madrid scored two late goals to stun Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals. The 14-time UCL winner will face Borussia Dortmund in the European professional soccer tournament final on June 1 in London (More)

  • Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter will plead guilty to felony bank fraud and submitting a false tax return. Ippei Mizuhara faces up to 33 years in federal prison for his role in the gambling scandal; he allegedly stole $17M from the Los Angeles Dodgers star (More)

  • A spinoff of The Office has been picked up by Peacock. The untitled mockumentary-style project is set at a failing Midwestern newspaper; it will exist in the same universe as the successful comedy series (More)

Quick Hitters

  • Helping Hand: Or trunk. An elephant returned a baby's shoe after it fell out of a bus during a zoo tour in China.

  • Stay Cool: Electric fans are inefficient when it comes to extreme heat, according to a new study. Air conditioning was found to be far more effective.

  • Long Road: If you feel like U.S. political campaigns never end, that is completely understandable. Things tend to drag on in America compared to other countries for myriad reasons.

  • Imagine That: An Alabama woman gave birth to quadruplets that turned out to be a pair of identical twins. The odds of that occurring? About 70M to one.

  • Life Hack: Not every wine needs to be decanted. Here is a rundown on how to know when your bottle needs time to breathe.

  • OPTIMIZE ME: Researchers “found convincing evidence that higher intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death, a 48% to 53% higher risk of anxiety and common mental disorders, and a 12% greater risk of type 2 diabetes”

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Do we really need to put our phones in airplane mode while flying?

Looking Ahead …

The Supreme Court has finished hearing arguments, but it must hand down a bevy of critical decisions before then current term ends next month. Here is a preview of what to expect in the weeks to come, from abortion to Trump to guns and more

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